Doris Liou: Excommunication

Work / Illustration

For illustrator Doris Liou, “drawings are about what you want to show others”

Illustration is one of those disciplines that anyone from anywhere can enjoy. As long as we’re presented with an eye-catching image (albeit to the person’s taste) most people can enjoy an illustration, particularly when it comes to editorial work. The Brooklyn-based illustrator Doris Liou is well aware of this, and in turn, creates work that is both accessible for the masses, and detailed for the more eagle-eyed among us.

“Noticing an image with a unique style is fun and stimulating,” says the Taiwanese-American creative. “But not everyone notices the amount of visual problem solving and calculation that goes behind every composite decision.” She asks her viewers to look again at the intricate refinements purposely placed within each illustration. How does a colour placement make your eye follow round an image for instance. Or, what contrast and hierarchy can you create to make a viewer focus on a certain detail that you think is important? What details can you include to drive a certain concept home?

This attention to detail has allowed Doris to craft a bold and distinctive style in her work. Having been commissioned several times over for the likes of The New York Times, Slate Magazine and Culture Trip, Doris’ unique approach to the discipline allows her to accentuate certain aspects of a storyline, or ideas provoked within an article. She recalls a particularly poignant lesson during her studies at RISD which led her to see things differently.


Doris Liou

As a student, Doris took still-life classes and was “always so concerned with making the work as accurate as possible.” At one point, her professor challenged her however, questioning the reasoning behind copying something exactly from real life, especially if scenes from “real life” can be deceiving. Doris goes on to tell It’s Nice That, that fundamentally, “drawings aren’t about copying what you see, but about what you want to show others.”

Since then, the illustrator has been reconstructing her own reality through her work, viewing editorial illustration as a kind of puzzle that she needs to solve visually. She also cites the work of Armand Veve, Ram Han, Josh Cochran and Misaki Kawai’s as notable influences. On the loveable Japanese artist Misaki Kawai, Doris continues: “I’m just amazed how her unique illustrations and vision can fit into the world no matter if it’s in the form of furniture, sculpture, gallery work, publications or fashion.”

During a “weird time” in Doris’ life when she worked in Muji for half a year or so, she remembers a day when Misaki came into the store. “I was stationed at the food sampling station,” says the illustrator, “and I offered her daughter some green pea snacks. After we got chatting, she told me to follow my dreams no matter what. I’ll never forget that” she goes on to say. “I look up to her so much.”


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